Video Essentials

Now Hear This: Eight Tips for Great Audio

If you want to communicate with your customers or employees with video, the costs have come down and the quality has gone up. You can get decent results even when doing the shooting yourself. But while inexpensive video cameras can create great video, they don’t often produce great audio.

It’s crucial that you consider audio before you begin a shoot. If a customer clicks on a video and has to struggle to hear what’s going on, you’ve lost them. They’re gone and they may never watch another of your clips. Audio quality is just as important as video quality; some would say it’s even more important. With that in mind, here are eight tips for recording good audio:

1. Wear Headphones While Filming: Most cameras have a headphone port, so that you can hear exactly the audio being recorded. Use it. You’ll avoid the unhappy surprise of getting back to your office and discovering that all your audio is too soft to be heard.

2. Listen for Interference: If you want to take the camera into one of your production plants to show your equipment, be aware that that same equipment can cause magnetic interference. If you find this happening, get yourself a condenser microphone, which shouldn’t have this problem. Also, switch to a wired microphone instead of a wireless one.

3. Record the Sound of the Room: If you’re going to be editing your footage, this is a handy tip. Record the sound of the room you’re shooting in, with no one talking, for about 60 seconds. This will give you “filler” you can blend in if you need to change the pace of a dialogue or cover up a problem sound.

4. Pay for Your Music or Use Royalty-Free: Don’t think that just because you’re working on a small scale that you can incorporate a pop song or other commercial music into your work. You don’t need the embarrassment and expense of a lawsuit. If you must use a commercial song, contact ASCAP about getting the rights. Better yet, search for royalty-free music libraries online.

5. Know Your Microphones: If you’re working on a small-scale, there are three basic types of microphones you should have on hand. A lavalier or lapel mic clips to your subject’s shirt or jacket. You can get wired one cheaply or a wireless one for a little more. Position them above the sternum and place them a little to one side if your subject will be turning in that direction. A shotgun mic records the sound directly in front of it and ignores the surrounding noise. Use it to record dialog in situations where you can’t use lavaliers. Finally, an omnidirectional mic records all the sound around it. Use it if you want to pick up the full sounds of the room.

6. Have Someone Hold Your Shotgun Mic: You’ll be tempted to mount your shotgun mic to your camera, but don’t do it. Inexpensive shotguns don’t have that long a range and usually need to be closer than you’re shooting distance. Plus, a mounted mic will pick up camera vibrations.

7. Block the Wind: A little breeze might not make any noise at all, and yet sound terrible on a microphone. If you’re recording outside, put a foam windscreen around your microphone.

8. Add Narration Later: You could drive yourself crazy trying to narrate a video while you’re shooting it. Save that for the editing room. Simply record your visuals first, then plug a mic into your computer during editing to record the narration.


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